Leontopodium monocephalum

 

Images by D S Rawat (Inserted by J.M.Garg) (For more images & complete details, click on the links) 

https://08511630493324166816.googlegroups.com/attach/ebdabbc2cb0373ea/L.monocephalum_DSR.JPG?part=0.1&view=1&vt=ANaJVrE3H9f2rCeSgFS3FdUcZS8DOKoxdmW3ZvrIarA6ZC64NcgtFwDCKvAbNZfBdFtsDGq4QXEKd5BQ6phNubHjys1N3wQxDGkna3FuSH4BIdrWHptV1cY
 
  
  
Leontopodium monocephalum Edgew. (=L.alpinumsensu Hook.f.; L.fimbrilligerum J.R.Drum) is a rare high alpine herb in Uttarakhand.
It makes small, soft carpets near snow line or above 4500m altitude in alpine scree.
This photograph is reproduced from an optical photo taken by me in 90’s near Kedarnath at an altitude of 4800m.


Leontopodium monocephalum (Asteraceae) photographed from Bhagwabas area (Chamoli) Uttarakhand.
4600m altitude.
Thanks ... for all the wonderful posts..
 
I am currently working on naming, as best I can, the excellent photos (some are outstanding) taken in Khumbu Himal by Marijn van den Brink (I have already been though, initially, another excellent set from Baltistan). So helpful for him to often have included several (at times many)
images of most plants he photographs incl. of Primula atrodentata (by far the best set ever posted on the internet).
Some I can name quickly other will require a lot of attention incl. those not in flower. 
Never been to Nepal in the Spring, so a delight to get a glimpse into its wonderful mountain flora at this time of year, especially when quality images are viewed.  And the familiarity Marijn's images are bringing to me help me understand better a number of species belonging to several genera I am uncertain about, found in the Indian Himalaya - so this is to the potential benefit of eFI.
But the main purpose of this post is to draw attention to the difficulties of identifying 'Edelweiss' including Leontopodium monocephalum.
I was able to confirm that Marijn's images were probably of this species from just below and above 5000m in Khumbu Himal, see:
http://photos.v-d-brink.eu/Flora-and-Fauna/Asia/Nepal-Khumbu-Himal/i-PCDx6Hw - some of his images are truly stunning, surpassing any photos I have ever taken of mountain flora.
The specimens were not in flower but I am reasonably confident in the identification, despite it not being in flower - although only as far as what I "currently" consider to be this species.
The altitude and habitat fitted. Plus this species has previously been recorded from Khumbu Himal. Making me have greater confidence in my identification.  Georg Miehe the remarkable German plant ecologist (who I met during a visit to the Natural History Museum herbarium in London) found this amongst mats of Kobresia pygmaea @ 5000-5000m south of Mt. Everest.  He has exhibited exceptional dedication undertaking ecological studies at extreme altitudes in the Himalaya. 
I have not come across this species in the NW Himalaya and am sceptical of some of the records in this region, which I suspect may be misidentifications.
I REPEAT THAT I APPROACH PLANT IDENTIFICATION LIKE DETECTIVE WORK, ALWAYS SEEKING "SUPPORTING EVIDENCE" and encourage others to do likewise.
Conventional wisdom in both the UK and India is that plant identification is generally EASY and that one can RELIABLY identify a plant by quickly glancing at and MATCHING with single, small, general images (which often do not show much detail) in picture books and guides such as 'Flowers of the Himalaya'.   Whilst this can work for DISTINCTIVE species, it OFTEN leads to misidentifications. 
Sorry, the reality is that it is OFTEN more difficult than that.  Frequently, such photos DO NOT reveal the essential characteristics to ACCURATELY and CORRECTLY identify plants.
There is also a FALSE expectation that one should ALWAYS be able to identify a plant from a photo.  Sometimes it is NOT possible. 
This applies to some LEONTOPODIUM specimens.  I have quite a number of images of this genus from the Himalaya which I am uncertain about.   The genus is in need of REVISION.
MISIDENTIFICATIONS are COMMON-PLACE.
Leontopodium monocephalum is not in 'Flowers of the Himalaya' - which only describes and has photos of 2 of the c. 9 species recorded from the Himalaya.  They CORRECTLY state, "A difficult genus of c. 9 species many of which are difficult to distinguish".
2 more Leontopodiums are described with photos in 'Supplement to Flowers of the Himalaya' incl. Leontopodium.
Stainton describes the involucral leaves as densely yellow-woolly.  Recorded from Pakistan to Sikkim @ 4600-5600m.
Roy Lancaster calls Leontopodium monocephalum the 'Golden Edelweiss' but no doubt there are forms which are not 'golden', more 'white'.
Stewart, who recorded 7 species (with one dubious) from Pakistan & Kashmir.
Dickore & Klimes record 6 species of Leontopodium from Ladakh.   I am yet to fully familiarise myself with these.
However, I am doubtful about what appears under this name on the 'Flowers of India' site, see: https://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Single-Head%20Edelweiss.html.
These images were taken by Krishan Lal on the Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh. The site does not say at what altitude but presumably
at a maximum of c. 4000m.  I do not know their source of information for Leontopodium monocephalum but according to my references this would be some 600m lower than ever recorded previously.
But fundamentally, I do not consider Krishan's image match with L.monocephalum. Not sure what they are but if I was forced to suggest a possibility, would go for Leontopodium nanum.
I need to scrutinise this genus further.
Stewart only has records for L.monocephalum from Baltistan (strictly speaking in the Karakoram not Himalaya) & Nubra - not the Kashmir Valley and the Kulu Valley does not fit at all well IF the former specimens have been correctly identified.
'Flora of Lahaul-Spiti' has L.monocephalum on the strength of a specimen collected in glacial moraine (no altitude given) near Batal (which I
presume is the place below the Kuzum La).  They say "Hitherto not known from the NW Himalaya".  I have my doubts, not that I would describe
Lahaul as 'NW Himalaya' as such but more TransHimalaya/borderlands of W.Tibet.   The same applies to Ladakh.
R.Brown who authored Leontopodium for 'Flora of Bhutan' states that most of the identifications are 'tentative'.....  He has L.monocephalum from Sikkim and Chumbi @ 4700-5200m but not Bhutan.
DIFFICULT so the SMART action is to express caution when naming MOST Leontopodium.
As for the postings on eFI.  See: https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/indiantreepix/iJnoCiR9CC0 - this might be correct but I am not sure, a single image not in close-up makes it especially difficult.  The altitude fits (near Kedarnath @ 4800m) but I am not familiar enough with the species at this stage to confirm the identification without a closer look.
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/indiantreepix/rfs1ZZXq2BQ- this is a closer view.  I am still uncertain.  The altitude fits but need to study the genus further before commenting more.
Am unsure about distinguishing between Leontopodium nanum and some forms of L.monocephalum.
Stewart wondered if the Himalayan Leontopodiums were apomictic? 
Unfortunately, no images (a number of specimens are there) available of L.monocephalum from Edinburgh Botanics.
and, confusingly: http://apps.kew.org/herbcat/getImage.do?imageBarcode=K000262556  (the top and lower specimens do not tally to me).
DIFFICULT.

   
 
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